We have found another weird treasure with an unusual history.
In the early 20th century, a man named Otto Ege had the idea that if he disassembled rare books, created unique sets of the leaves (pages), and sold them far and wide that ordinary people would be able to enjoy them and see these precious artifacts. While his mission might have been noble, he ultimately sliced up rare books. A patron requested to view the library’s Ege set last week. Because of the book’s poor housing, we discovered what it actually contained, not simply facsimiles but the real thing.
We have another example of this phenomenon in our collection. Our medieval manuscripts leaves have all been removed from their original books and sold as individual pages.
Ege created a few sets including one focused on Bibles and our set. Below is the index and a few notable selections. Each page has an explanatory note about the work.
Published in 1915, The Red Book of Houston: A Compendium of Social, Professional, Religious, Educational and Industrial Interests of Houston’s Colored Population is quite rare. According to WorldCat, there are two versions of this book held in libraries across the United States. One is at Rice and the other is Prairie View A&M University. This isn’t the full story, though.
While Rice does have a version, ours is quite inferior. It’s simply a photocopy. According to their catalog, it looks like Prairie View’s is, too. If you’d like to see it in it’s actual glory, then please visit the Internet Archive’s version. They have digitized a version owned by the Library of Congress, whose version is not listed on WorldCat.
Back to the actual book, the book is written by and for Black people. It acts both as a piece of information about Black Houston for outsiders, like a promotional book, and as a way to praise the strides made by those featured.
What follows are noteworthy images and sections from the book. If you have never seen this book in all of its glory, you should check it out. Also, for those thinking about connections to The Negro Motorist Green Book, it was first published much later in 1936 by a man named Green. I did a search to see if there might be other “Red Books” and couldn’t find anything. If anyone has any more information, please share in the comments.
Sections of the book include schools with listings and addresses of each employee, as well as a focus on churches and their pastors. There is even a listing of clubs and lodges and all of the Black-owned businesses.
The man who took all or most of the images in the book was C.G. Harris.
There are many images spread out of prominent African-Americans and images of their homes.
In a section called “Social Calendar,” there’s a listing of the mostly married women, their address, phone numbers, and short and long bios. Mrs. Annie Hagan above posing with her house is featured.
Throughout the book, there are profiles of notable African-American men.
While many of the homes profiled in the book are gone. Here is one that still exists and has an historical marker.
Finally, one of the most harrowing images is of former slaves, living in Houston. Some of the ages are off, but it makes sense why some would not have known their years of birth.
We have some updates on our Black Manhattan blog post from a few weeks ago. For those that need to be caught up, we were trying to figure out why we have Arturo Alfonso Schomburg’s personal copy of James Weldon Johnson’s Black Manhattan.
Our amazing Rice historian Melissa Kean worked quite hard trying to track down when the book came in. When the library was still the Rice Institute library run by Alice Dean, she kept incredibly detailed records tracking who ordered a book, where it came from, its price, and its final location. Black Manhattan, sadly, came in after Ms. Dean’s tenure. As a volunteer, she still kept track of items in a log book, but not with the same meticulous detail. What we found out is that the book arrived at Fondren Library between March 12th and March 20th of 1953.
Melissa also tracked down the book’s library catalog card. It’s pretty standard and does not give any more clues.
If we find out more from the Schomburg Library, we’ll update the blog.
For those interested, below are screenshots of Schomburg’s review of Black Manhattan. We thank both ProQuest and the Chicago Historical Society for granting us permission to use it on the blog.
Source: The Claude A. Barnett Papers: The Associated Negro Press, 1918-1967, Part 1: Associated Negro Press News Releases, 1928-1964, Series A: 1928-1944. Chicago Historical Society, Copyright, 2011. Reproduced by permission.
Over the past three years, we have been sending out some of our heavily used and most precious rare books to a company called Octávaye owned by Wendy Ossoinig.
Ossoinig takes our book and creates custom made boxes for them. When a class comes to see Diderot‘s Encyclopedie book plates, we no longer haul out the rapidly deteriorating volumes hoping that the binding won’t split, the cover won’t detach, and that our foam wedges will provide enough support. We bring out this.
Today, Brenna Ram, a first year English graduate student, brought in the general stacks copy of Black Manhattan by James Weldon Johnson. She said there was a letter pasted in the back, signed by Johnson to Arturo Alfonso Schomburg.
Brenna Ram checked out the book because her professor Dr. Nicole Waligora-Davis placed it on a customized reading list. Dr. Waligora-Davis discovered the letter in the back of the book and quickly realized its significance.
In the letter above, James Weldon Johnson writes Schomburg to thank him for his recent “splendid” review of Black Manhattan. Why is it clearly from James Weldon Johnson? He lived at Five Acres in Great Barrington, Massachusetts during the summers and used it as a writing cabin. The James Weldon Johnson Foundation is currently restoring the cabin. One more thing, in the second half of the letter he mentions the “Association,” he most likely is referring to the NAACP. He was the executive secretary, effectively the president of the organization from 1920-1930.
In case you’re wondering how Schomburg has a center named after him, here’s a bit more information on that. In 1926, Schomburg donated his book and art collection to the center which went by the name the Division of Negro Literature, History, and Prints. In 1932, Schomburg became the first curator of the collection until his death in 1938.
How did the Rice Institute acquire Schomberg’s personal copy? Why did it not stay at the Schomburg Center? Based on the markings in our copy, it came into the library some time after 1930 (most likely after 1938), but before 1953, which is the earliest stamp on the out card. Melissa Kean is going to look into this further to see if she can find information in the Fondren Library records. I’m also waiting to hear back from the book curator at the Schomburg Center, who is working on a project creating a master list of Schomburg’s books. Perhaps, they have a record of it leaving their institution. As soon as there is an update, there will be another post.
One last thing, if you can’t tell from the top image, the front cover is about to come off, so we are sending it to preservation. It will also be moved from the general stacks to its new home in the Woodson. Thank you so much to Brenna Ram and Dr. Waligora-Davis for bringing this rare find to our attention.
In honor of the first plane in flight, let’s look at one of our rare books from the Benjamin Monroe Anderson Collection on the History of Aeronautics.
The Romance of Aeronautics, published in 1912, by Charles Cyril Turner (1870-1952) is a children’s book recounting the history of flight, which was still an incredibly new technology.
The book contains a wealth of images including drawings and photographs of different contraptions. Excuse the odd angles for the photographs the book’s binding is quite tight.
During the 1923-1924 school year, the headmaster, A.S. Langton, gifted this book to W. Baker. The Kimberley British Evening School might now be the Kimberley School in Nottingham, although their website does not contain its history and the Wikipedia page lists that the school opened in 1946. As noted above, the book is in really good condition, so perhaps young Baker was not a fan of the topic.
As always, here’s an interesting list of other books in The Romance series.
In 1840, Catherine Grace Frances Gore published The Snow Storm, A Christmas Story under the name Mrs. Gore. She was a prolific “silver fork writer” who chronicled the lives of the upper class and aristocracy.
Here is a signature from the first owner, Miss M. Brown. Later owner, F. S. Bradburn looks to be a rare book collector and has a connection with emeritus professor, Dr. Robert Patten, who helped the Woodson acquire books for the Cruikshank rare book collection from which the book comes.
This 2nd edition of her book dedicated to her son contains illustrations by George Cruikshank.
While it might only be me, I really love the advertisements for books by the publisher. It seems like there a lot of coffee table books listed. Fisher’s Drawing-Room Scrap Book is available via Harvard via the Hathi Trust.